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Scramble for tickets and travel as football fever grows

Published 23/06/2016

A Northern Ireland fan shows his support in the stands
A Northern Ireland fan shows his support in the stands

Travel operators are struggling to meet demand for flights to France after three home nations and the Republic of Ireland qualified for the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

Thousands of supporters scrambled for tickets and transport with Wales playing Northern Ireland in a mouthwatering clash in Paris on Saturday.

Standard class tickets on Eurostar for Friday afternoon are already sold out on some services, and a FlyBe flight from Cardiff to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on Friday is also fully booked.

F ew extra aircraft are available for charter with the start of the busy summer holiday season, according to Belfast-based firm Travel Solutions.

A spokesman for Travel Solutions said: "A lot of people are looking for flights. We have a plane chartered to go (to the Northern Ireland game) but there are still quite a lot of people who are looking for spaces to get over.

"They are trying all avenues to try and get the planes but there are not more available at the moment, there just are not any planes.

"There are only a certain amount of planes and they also need crews and then you have the logistics of getting the right plane in the right place."

A spokesman for Eurostar said: " On Saturday, we have eight trains to Paris arriving before 15.47, plenty of time ahead of kick-off, and with each train carrying up to 900 people we have a lot of capacity, and availability at present through Eurostar.com."

England play Iceland in Nice on the south coast on Monday, and the Republic of Ireland face the tournament hosts on Sunday in Lyon.

A ticket portal run by tournament governing body Uefa said there were no more tickets available at present for the Northern Ireland game.

A spokesman for Belfast International Airport said one charter had been arranged, with the probability of a second one.

The Co Antrim transport hub supported 14 extra flights during Northern Ireland's three group games, accounting for 3,500 fans.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster is among those going to the game at the Parc des Princes.

Mrs Foster said the Northern Ireland fans should be "very proud" of themselves.

"I think they have presented themselves in such a positive light, mixing with all the other fans from right across Europe."

The DUP leader added: "l look forward to the game on Saturday and I'll be there to support the Green and White Army and I am very much looking forward to that."

Mrs Foster also hinted that an official homecoming event would be staged when Northern Ireland finally bow out of the tournament.

"We will make sure they are recognised in an appropriate way," she said.

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